Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Jon Elliott

Recent Posts

EPA publishes National Recycling Strategy

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 29, 2021

On November 15, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its “2021 National Recycling Strategy,” which summarizes recent efforts to organize support for recycling of solid wastes – typically referred to in regulatory parlance as “municipal solid waste (MSW)” – and sets out near-term priorities for further progress to reach a national recycling rate of 50% by 2030. The Strategy notes that “The U.S. MSW recycling system currently faces a number of challenges, including confusion about what materials can be recycled, recycling infrastructure that has not kept pace with today’s diverse and changing waste stream, reduced markets for recycled materials, and varying methodologies to measure recycling system performance.” EPA characterizes this Strategy as “part one in a series of strategies to help us re-envision how we use materials more broadly.” As part of these broader considerations, the Strategy incorporates contemporary emphases on environmental justice and climate change. (I’ve recently written about state-level initiatives including “product stewardship” HERE and HERE). The remainder of this note summarizes this policy document.

Read More

Tags: EPA, Environment, Recycling

OSHA emergency temporary standard for COVID vaccination and testing – issued but stayed by litigation

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 23, 2021

On November 5, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published an “emergency temporary standard (ETS)” specifying steps that employers with 100 or more employees must take “to protect unvaccinated employees” from COVID-19 infections in their workplaces. The ETS requires targeted employers to comply with most provisions by December 6, and with requirements for testing of unvaccinated employees by January 4, 2022; it remains in place for 6 months.

However, at least a dozen major lawsuits have been filed against the rules, the effectiveness of which are stayed as of this writing by an order issued by a panel of judges in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. On November 16, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation resolved the overlaps by assigning the Sixth Circuit (based in Ohio) to hear the consolidated cases. Depending on the outcome of the litigation, the ETS may or may not ever become effective … but it does illuminate OSHA’s thinking about appropriate employer responses to the ongoing COVID pandemic.

The remainder of this note describes OSHA’s ETS requirements, and the scope of the special authority OSHA is using to adopt it.

Read More

Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Safety and Health at Work, Covid-19, workplace safety, Vaccination, Healthcare

OSHA begins work-related heat illness rulemaking

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 15, 2021

On October 27, the US federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM)”, as the first step toward national heat illness prevention rules. This action is the agency’s second recent step to define and combat these hazards – several states already administer such rules. OSHA’s first step was to release new “Inspection Guidance for Heat-Related Hazards” on September 1 (I wrote about it HERE). The remainder of this note summarizes issues raised and questions asked in the ANPRM.

Read More

Tags: OSHA, Heat, Be Heat Smart

US Government rolls out comprehensive approach to PFAS “forever chemicals”

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 08, 2021

On October 18, the federal government announced comprehensive plans to design and implement protections against perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – often referred to as “forever chemicals.” PFAS have been manufactured and used since the 1940s and are now found in many environmental settings, and most Americans’ blood. These plans were rolled out through statements by President Biden and longer pronouncements by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Defense, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Health and Human Services.

The remainder of this note provides basic information about PFAS, and EPA’s new “PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024.”

Read More

Tags: EPA, Environment, PFAS, NIEHS

EPA marks the 35th anniversary of Toxics Release Inventory and proposes to list additional chemicals

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 01, 2021

October 17 was the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA, also referred to as SARA Title III). EPCRA presents several separate programs, including release prevention and reporting for a fairly short list of extremely hazardous substances (which I discussed HERE), inventory reporting for most hazardous materials (which I discussed HERE), and filing of annual toxic chemical release inventory reports with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state, on one of two forms (Form R or Form A) – usually called the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program (which I’ve discussed several times, including HERE).

EPA is celebrating the TRI program anniversary on its website. Meanwhile, the agency has also proposed to add an additional dozen chemicals to the TRI reporting list. The reminder of this note summarizes these activities.

Read More

Tags: EPA, Environment, Toxic, Toxics Release, TRI

SEC emphasizes need for clear disclosure of climate change-related impacts on public companies

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Oct 25, 2021

In September 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Division of Corporation Finance (Division) provided public companies with guidance about disclosures of climate-related information that SEC expects from public companies. This guidance appears in a newly-released template with sample comments the Division may issue to companies regarding failures to make adequate climate-related disclosure. The remainder of this note provides some context to the relevant SEC-administered provisions, and summarizes the Division’s new letter.

Read More

Tags: SEC, climate change, csr, Environment

Biden Administration Proposes to reverse most Trump Administration revisions to Federal Environmental Impact Assessment rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Oct 20, 2021

The federal Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has proposed to revise its regulations administering the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions, and incorporate this information into their decisions. Government-wide guidance is provided by the White House’s CEQ, established by NEPA and appointed by the President. CEQ issues formal regulations that agencies must follow, and guidance documents that provide additional advice.  CEQ also reviews agencies’ NEPA implementation programs, and publishes annual national Environmental Quality Reports.


Read More

Tags: Environmental, EPA, NEPA, CEQ

OSHA begins nationwide effort to prevent work-related heat illness

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Oct 13, 2021

In September 2021, the US federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced its first steps toward nationwide enhancement of efforts to protect workers from heat illness. The effort will cover both outdoor work in the sun and ambient heat, and indoor work in hot areas or heat-retaining clothing and equipment. OSHA’s first step was to release new “Inspection Guidance for Heat-Related Hazards” on September 1. The remainder of this note discusses this policy, and identifies additional context that clarifies ambiguous points.

Read More

Tags: OSHA, Heat Wave, Heat

EPA finalizing HFC phase-down rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Oct 06, 2021

On September 23, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final rules to phase down production and consumption of specified hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs) (I wrote about the proposal HERE). These HFCs are used in refrigeration and air conditioning and fire suppression, and as foam blowing agents and solvents. These rules are consistent with directives included in the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the United Nations-sponsored Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (which I wrote about HERE). The US finally enacted statutory support for Kigali-like requirements in the December 2020 coronavirus relief bill (American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act)), which included dozens of unrelated provisions within its 5,593 pages.

Read More

Tags: EPA, climate change, Environment, HFCs, Montreal Protocol, Ozone Layer

US Federal insurance Office seeking information on climate-related financial risks

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Sep 27, 2021

Organizations around the world are responding to the latest climate-related risk assessment produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which replaced earlier cautionary information with an urgent warning that climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying.” On August 31, the US Federal Insurance Office (FIO), an element of the Department of the Treasury, published a “Request for Information on the Insurance Sector and Climate-Related financial Risks” (RFI) in the Federal Register, posing 19 questions it will use to focus its application of climate-related risks to the domestic insurance sector. Insurers should obviously be interested in these questions and their answers, but any entity that buys insurance should consider them as well. The remainder of this note summarizes FIO’s questions.

Read More

Tags: climate change, Environment, FIO, IPCC, RFI